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Hundreds Make Icy Splash for Special Olympics

Annual Polar Plunge in Port Washington Saturday raises nearly $100,000 for charity.

Many went all the way, some just as much as they could handle — but in the end, the contributions of hundreds of participants at the annual Polar Plunge in Port Washington was significant.

The 9th annual event gives individuals young and old, organization and business teams the chance to take a dip in icy cold water to raise funds for the local Special Olympics.

With temperatures hovering near freezing by the start of the event Saturday, participants were divided among four seperate groups, each taking turns sprinting into the frigid North Shore water at North Hempstead Beach Park.

Nearly $100,00 was raised from the event, according to event organizers. In raising $125, team members were eligible to receive official Polar Plunge sweatshirts, but many teams went farther.

The Brendan's Brigade team from Levittown, consisting of more than 100 family and friends, were the top fundraisers with $25,000 raised. 

"We actually started the team to raise money for autism awareness because our son has autism," said Maria Gallagher a team organizer along with her husband, Joe.

Participating for their second year, Brendan's Brigade brought with it hundreds of followers who showed up in support from the shore. Last year, the team raised $10,000.

A nine-member Bahama Mamas team from Lloyd Harbor raised $10,200 for the event.

"We do it for the Special Olympics and all the kids involved," said Jessica Kasten, a team organizer

Team Cresa contributed nearly $8000 with other top fundraising teams including Total Dental and the Port Washington Chamber of Commerce contributing.

Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman, who has taken the plunge in each year since the inception of the event nine years ago, said nearly 700 teams participated this year.

Standing with his wife, two sons and 7-year-old daughter beach side on a day when the temperatures lingered just above freezing, Kaiman said the family was enjoying what they do each year at the fundraiser.

"That is, jump in the freezing water and come out and have a cup of hot chocolate," said Kaiman, with a laugh.

Notable plungers included state Assemblywoman Michelle Schimel, Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio and Town Clerk Leslie Gross.

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